options for the 4-stroke aficionado on the hunt for a brand new ride
in the mountain snowmobile segment expanded two-fold when Arctic Cat
jumped squarely into the 4-stroke game. Not only does that create a
new mountain segment of sorts, Cat’s entry in the 4-stroke mountain
market now gives Yamaha some heated competition.
Yamaha and Arctic Cat now offer either naturally aspirated or
compressed air intake versions of the available models in their
lineup, sans the Yamaha Phazer MTX, which is now in a third and/or
entry segment or class all by itself.
you’ve ever had the opportunity to take a properly tuned turbo or
supercharged 4-stroke sled for a test spin, then you are quite aware
of the fact that the “compressors” are a whole other animal,
creating another class of snowmobile while leaving their
naturally-aspirated siblings in the snow dust while you have a
permagrin plastered on your face … literally. This particular
situation has created a split or dual class for the 4-stroke
we jump into the nitty gritty of the mountain 4-strokes, let’s just
clear the air about something right off the bat. Yes, both Arctic Cat
(ProClimb M 1100) and Yamaha (Nytro MTX SE) offer, as mentioned,
naturally-aspirated 4-strokes. That’s the easy part. When it comes
to compressed air models, Cat’s offerings come stock while Yamaha’s
but are offered as a dealer-add on, meaning you buy either the
supercharger or turbo (both are manufactured by Mountain Performance)
and then have it installed.
we make some loose comparisons between the Arctic Cats and Yamahas
knowing full well what the deal is and while some might cry foul and
say that’s not fair, we think it’s a little more fun and
interesting to compare the two. So here goes.
sled has the most significant changes for 2012?
most significant changes for 2012 are not exclusive to an individual
sled, but to an entirely new Arctic Cat 4-stroke mountain poundin’
ProClimb lineup, dressed out and available in nine variations of
either naturally-aspirated or turbo-charged models.
sled feels the most powerful?
depends on whether you want your power now or later. If you look at
the factory published numbers, the Nytro MTX turbo shows to be the
most powerful, producing 180 hp at 7-8 lbs, versus the Cat turbo
building 177 hp at 9 lbs. The Nytro MTX with the supercharger makes
170-175 hp. As you can see, all are within about five horses of each
other and all three of these motor packages ran extremely hard during
photo shoots in West Yellowstone, MT, where we were riding between
about 6,700-9,000 feet. The Cat felt like it had the longest legs of
the bunch with a more linear power delivery, yet the more immediate
low-end bang delivered by the supercharged and turboed Yamahas most
definitely tested the forearm strength and throttle management
the non-compressors, the power delivery of the naturally-aspirated
Yamaha Nytro MTX felt noticeably stronger than the Arctic Cat
ProClimb M 1100.
sled makes the least power?
is kind of a no-brainer—it’s the sled with the smallest engine
displacement, the Yamaha Phazer MTX, which makes an advertised 80 hp.
And, as we alluded to earlier, that places this machine as an entry
level sled in a class all its own.
far as how the full-sized sleds ran at photo shoots, the
naturally-aspirated Cats were the most docile and we associate most
of this with clutching and gearing, not necessarily actual
sled’s powerband is best for climbing?
your particular application requires immediate up-in-your-face
acceleration off the bottom, we liked the turbo Cat the best because
of its more linear spool-up, giving you more options for line
the opposite was the case with the naturally-aspirated sleds, as the
punchier Nytro MTX had the upper hand on the Cats for uphill
sled’s powerband is best for boondocking?
of the 4-stroke sleds have a nice, fat powerband, especially when
compared to their 2-stroke counterparts, and the Cat turbo throttle
manners were very manageable at this discipline as were its
sled has the smoothest powerband for all conditions?
non-turbo Arctic Cat motors and clutching/gearing had the most
linear, hence, smoothest powerband of the 4-stroke sleds that we rode
at photo shoots. One SnoWest
staffer wrote, “Very manageable and rider-friendly.”
sled has the best front suspension?
Cat’s ARS race-bred front end offers a better ride, stability and
performance when compared against the Yamaha during our testing under
widely varied conditions. It is nice to have options and Cat also
offers three different shock packages for their ProClimbs, depending
upon the model. Those three options include Fox Zero Pro (M 1100),
Fox Float (M 1100 Sno Pro) and Fox EVOL (HCR). The Nytro MTX uses Fox
Float 2 shocks.
sled has the best rear suspension?
jury is still deliberating this one as each skid performed well but
had some characteristics we are still sorting through. More seat time
and some individual adjustments will help us figure this one out
during the upcoming winter. We want a little more time on the Cat to
make a fair comparison with the Nytro MTX.
sled has the best track?
latest and greatest version of Cat’s Power Claw performs great but
Yamaha’s new 162-inch Ascent track really caught our attention.
Impressively designed and an excellent performer in deep powder, the
Ascent track built for Yamaha by Camoplast is purpose-built to handle
the big ponies produced by the compressors. This track’s design is
very unique in its construction to be light weight, durable for the
biggest of factory produced horsepower, yet pliable enough to reduce
trenching and increase traction. Yamaha hit a homerun with the
sled has the best brakes?
snowmobiles all have excellent braking systems and it is seldom that
there is a noticeable difference. Having said that, the new radial
bore master cylinder and larger/lighter rotor on the Cats gave us a
slight sense of a performance advantage, yet the super long brake
lever proved to be a nuisance in the dog hair timber and other
occasional situations. Call this one a toss-up.
sled has the best seat?
give the nod to Cat as the new seat offered on the ProClimb chassis
is 1 inch taller compared to last year’s seat, making for an easy
sit/stand transition. However, to our dismay, the Cat seat lost its
storage capabilities for 2012. The Nytro seat is the more comfortable
saddle of the two but unfortunately has a low rider feel and design
that is not as conducive for extreme off-trail riding.
sled has the best running boards?
a doubt, the Cat running board is superior in all aspects of our
evaluation criteria, including width, length, boot traction and snow
buildup. Yamaha’s boards are antiquated and have insufficient snow
evacuation and footing traction on both the outer roll and the pan.
One SnowTest staffer said, “The Cat boards currently may be the
best in the industry.”
sled has the best handlebar/controls setup?
Arctic Cat mountain bar package with the vertical speed adjuster is
what the SnoWest
team desires to get its paws on as we like the bar design for its
boondocking functionality and the height adjustability to accommodate
all disciplines of western riding and nearly all jockeys, no matter
how short or tall.
it comes to accessory and creature comfort controls, Yamaha has the
best in the biz due to ease of operation, range of adjustability,
location of switches/controls and readout of display. “Definitely
high tech equipment that we appreciate,” one SnoWest
sled has the best skis?
ProClimb mountain ski is an improved version of last year’s ski
that is lighter weight, has a deeper keel for enhanced control and
new loops that reduce finger pinch when used for pulling. The MT-9
ski is a brand new ski of a blow mold design developed for Yamaha by
Camoplast. It is also lighter by 1.8 lbs. than its predecessor yet
larger for greater flotation. Even though there is a glaring
difference in the appearance between the two, the performance was not
so much other than the MT-9 did float better, but lacked sidehill
bite in comparison.
sled feels the lightest on snow?
is another no-brainer. That would be the Phazer MTX, due to its size.
It is approximately 100 lbs. lighter when compared to all the other
neither Yamaha or Arctic Cat publish dry weights anymore—and we’re
not sure we want to see what any of the 4-strokes weigh—we’re
left to seat-of-the-pants feel.
it comes to the big boys (M 1100 and Nytro MTX), it’s the
compressed air Nytro MTX that set a precedence of sorts. With
immediate power at our disposal to work a weight transfer-responsive
suspension, coupled with the stellar performing Ascent 162, the Nytro
MTX turbo got up on plane much quicker than previously anticipated.
“Nothing short of impressive,” one SnowTest staffer wrote.
sled feels the heaviest on snow?
now, the dark side of us would be tempted to say something like,
“They’re 4-strokes. Which sled doesn’t feel heavy on snow?”
But let’s move on. The naturally-aspirated Arctic Cat had a
tendency to feel the heaviest in more conditions and circumstances
than the other 4-stroke naturally-aspirated ponies and we attribute
most of that to power delivery rather than a significant weight
sled sidehills on open hillsides the best?
that depends on the nature and severity of the sidehill, but if
you’re going big, then we suggest the M 1100 Sno Pro turbo. Our
staff agreed that as the slope gains severity, the deeper tunnel cut,
shorter “runners” and narrower ski on the ProClimb chassis allows
those sleds to take a deeper bite while the turbo spools up enough
track speed for the Power Claw 162 to go until you may run out of,
well, let’s say nerve.
sled sidehills under slow speed in technical terrain the best?
the Yamaha Phazer MTX being the smallest and lightest 4-stroke on the
market, it is a shoe-in for this discipline as this is what was in
mind behind the design of the little Yammie.
of our staff leaned into the hill most comfortably and efficiently at
a lower velocity aboard the naturally-aspirated ProClimbs when
comparing the full sizer sleds. Having said that, the Nytro MTX, in
about one to one-and-a-half feet of powder seems right at home. Any
deeper and you’re fighting the weight.
sled handles the best in deep snow?
general consensus among the SnoWest
is, “The M-1100 turbo 162 has all the right stuff to capture this
honor, highlighted by awesome power and balance for maneuverability
coupled with great traction/flotation to go forward fast.”
sled handles the best on rough single-track trails?
again, the lighter and smaller Phazer MTX had a definite advantage
over the big boy 4-strokes on a rough and/or confined trail.
M 1100 Sno Pro 153 also scored high on the fun factor scale for
rough-housing, thanks to its shorter track, predictable power and
suspension package. One SnowTester said, “Significantly easier to
control in the rough stuff than the longer tracked sleds and
compressed intake horsepower.”
sled handles the best on groomed trails?
think the FX Nytro MTX 153 is almost perfect if you have more groomed
trail riding in your total mileage than not. “This Nytro gives you
a sensation of being on the trail on rails, enhanced by its lower
stature and stability,” one staffer wrote. Now, if we could just
add a supercharger to this 153 recipe ….
sled are you going to hate to change the belt on?
your pick. None of these are easy.
sled are you going to hate to change the spark plugs on?
of the 4-stroke machines are a peach to change spark plugs on, but if
there is any consolation, the Yamaha top/side panels and attachment
screws are easier to remove for under hood maintenance.
sled has the best gauges?
testers fav is the Arctic Cat premium gauge mounted in its adjustable
pod, giving the rider more direct visibility whether sitting or
standing. As we’re always nitpicking about something, Cat might
need to put a heated lens in the gauge to help keep it visible on
those deep powder days when the gauge is sitting in the more
sled is our top pick for the 4-stroke mountain sled?
2012, the choices have become quite diverse in the mountain 4-stroke
class and for most of our particular wants and needs, the Arctic Cat
M 1100 Turbo Sno Pro 162 was our pick of the litter.